Agent Orange and the Continuing Vietnam War
October 1, 2017
Bill Fletcher, Jr. / Full Disclosure & BlackVoiceNews
In a 2009 visit to Vietnam, I asked a retired colonel in the Vietnam People's Army about the notorious toxin "Agent Orange." I asked when the Vietnamese first realized the long-term dangers associated with the herbicide. His answer was as simple as it was heart-wrenching: "When the children were born." Despite the official assurances that the use of Agent Orange was both safe and humane, the truth was: it was chemical warfare. And it is not an exaggeration to suggest that it was genocidal.
Agent Orange and the Continuing Vietnam War
Bill Fletcher, Jr. / Full Disclosure (Vets for Peace) & BlackVoiceNews
Various birth defects in children as a result of Agent Orange
(Summer 2017) -- In a 2009 visit to Vietnam I asked a retired colonel in the Vietnam People's Army about the notorious toxin "Agent Orange." The colonel, who was also a former leader in a Vietnamese advocacy group for Agent Orange's victims, spoke fluent English and was a veteran of the war with the United States.
I asked him when had the Vietnamese realized the long-term dangers associated with the Agent Orange herbicide used by the USA. His answer was as simple as it was heart-wrenching: "When the children were born," was his response.
In an effort to defeat the National Liberation Front and North Vietnamese Army (the Vietnam People's Army), the US concocted the idea that if it destroyed the forests and jungles that there would be nowhere for the guerrillas to hide. They, thus, unleashed a massive defoliation campaign, the results of which exist with us to this day.
Approximately 19 million gallons of herbicides were used during the war, affecting between 2 million and 4.8 million Vietnamese, along with thousands of US military personnel. Additionally, Laos and Cambodia were exposed to Agent Orange by the USA in the larger Indochina War.
Despite the original public relations associated with the use of Agent Orange aimed at making it appear safe and humane, it was chemical warfare and it is not an exaggeration to suggest that it was genocidal.
The cancers promoted by Agent Orange (affecting the Vietnamese colonel I interviewed, as a matter of fact) along with the catastrophic rise in birth defects, have not only haunted the people of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, but also the United States. Those in the US military involved in the dispersal of Agent Orange, and those who were simply exposed to it, brought the curse home.
The United States government has refused to take responsibility for the war of aggression it waged against the Vietnamese. This includes a failure to acknowledge the extent of the devastation wrought by Agent Orange. Ironically, it has also failed to assume responsibility for the totality of the horror as it affected US veterans, thus leaving the veterans and their families to too often fight this demon alone.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee recently introduced House Resolution 2519, "To direct the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide assistance for individuals affected by exposure to Agent Orange, and for other purposes." In many respects, this bill is about settling some of the accounts associated with the war against Vietnam.
The US] reneged on reparations that it promised to Vietnam and to this day there remain those in the media and government who wish to whitewash this horrendous war of aggression as if it were some sort of misconstrued moral crusade.
An image taken of a baby girl 40 years after Agent Orange was last used in Vietnam.
HR 2519 takes us one step towards accepting responsibility for a war crime that was perpetrated against the Vietnamese and that, literally and figuratively, blew back in our faces as our government desperately tried to crush an opponent it should never have first been fighting.
For that reason, we need Congress to pass and fund HR 2519. HR 2519 should be understood as a down payment on a much larger bill owed to the peoples of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and to the US veterans sent into hell.
[For more information on HR 2519 and the issue of Agent Orange, contact the "Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign" at www.vn-agentorange.org.]
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and national board member of the "Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign." Follow him on Facebook and www.billfletcherjr.com.
This article was first published by in April 28, 2014.
Stunted Minds and Crippled Bodies
Mike Ferner / Full Disclosure @ Veterans For Peace
You may notice that Agent Orange is mentioned in more than one of the articles in this publication. That's because the deadly killer is woven through the cruel fabric of that war and every generation of living beings that have come since.
About one million Vietnamese, including 100,000 children, are living with the after-effects of Agent Orange, now into a third generation. More than 13 million gallons of the herbicide laced with dioxin were dispersed from 1961 to 1971.
Stunted minds, crippled bodies, a lifetime of pain and social stigma along with impoverishment of families burdened with caring for the stricken are the legacies of a war crime for the ages. Genocide would not be too harsh a term for a strategy that destroyed forests and crops, poisoned water, denied food and shelter to whole regions and goes on killing and crippling generation after generation.
The US government cared no more for its own than it did for the Indochinese in that war, as shown by the decades-long struggle it took for veterans and their families to get recognition and some compensation for the same kinds of disease and deformity that struck those we targeted. More of the "unintended collateral damage" of war?
For more information about children of US veterans suffering from the multigenerational effects of Agent Orange, contact the Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance, cofounded by Heather Bowser, born with webbed fingers and toes and missing her lower right limb; covvha.net.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.